Articles | Volume 12, issue 24
Research article
21 Dec 2012
Research article |  | 21 Dec 2012

Numerical evidence for cloud droplet nucleation at the cloud-environment interface

J. Sun, H. Leighton, M. K. Yau, and P. Ariya

Abstract. Cumulus clouds have long been recognized as being the results of ascending moist air from below the cloud base. Cloud droplet nucleation is understood to take place near the cloud base and inside accelerating rising cloudy air. Here we describe circumstances under which cloud droplet nucleation takes place at the interface of ascending cloudy air and clear air. Evaporation is normally expected to occur at this interface. However, continuity of moving air requires cloud-free air above the boundary of rising cloudy air to move upwards in response to the gradient force of perturbation pressure. We used a one and half dimensional non-hydrostatic cloud model and the Weather Research and Forecast model to investigate the impacts of this force on the evolution of cloud spectra. Our study shows that expansion and cooling of ascending moist air above the cloud top causes it to become supersaturated with condensation rather than evaporation occurring at the interface. We also confirm that Eulerian models can describe the cloud droplet activation and prohibit spurious activation at this interface. The continuous feeding of newly activated cloud droplets at the cloud summit may accelerate warm rain formation.

Final-revised paper